Which Supplements are Best for Supporting the Immune System?
Which ingredient has been shown to INHIBIT SARS-COV VIRUSES via strong antiviral activity?
What has been shown to help REDUCE DURATION AND SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUSES!*
Learn why TESTOSTERONE IS CRUCIAL in immune response
Find out how ANDROSTENEDIOL SUPPORTS IMMUNITY and infectious disease response
Find out why it is NOT THE BEST KNOWN INGREDIENTS that you need most
Which ingredients have ANTI-VIRAL PROPERTIES?
What supplements SUPPORT IMMUNE FUNCTION?
Which ingredients INHIBIT INFLUENZA STRAINS?
Plus what TRIPLE STACK OF ANTIVIRAL INGREDIENTS is included in two separate Hydrapharm products?
We have spent months studying the research on nutraceutical and hormonal agents to help you make informed decisions:
- What supplements could help to support immunity
- Which ones have the best research
- Which ones to avoid
- Which have evidence specifically in relation to coronaviruses and influenza strain
- What strategies maximise your personal safety during the pandemic
- And lots lots more
*Coronaviruses refer to a family of viruses not an individual virus
Since the first edition of this article, Covid-19 has continued to grow at an exponential rate. As of writing on March 31, 2020 there have now been over 36,000 officially confirmed deaths globally. Worse still, there is growing evidence that in the western world, the disease is extracting a greater toll among younger age groups compared to China, while there still remains an absence of evidence showing that those who have recovered from the disease have not been left with permanent damage.
In this update we will look at:
- How being overweight makes you more likely to become sick and more likely to suffer a severe illness
- What medicines are being recommended to treat the dry coughs and fevers seen in the typical Covid-19 patient
- How a surgical pre-operative lotion can be repurposed as a hand sanitiser
- We explore the evidence for an additional five micronutrients in supporting immune function – ashwagandha, cinnamon extract, selenium, n-acetyl cysteine, garlic, spirulina and bee pollen.
Lastly, we will be putting together a separate article purely focused around treatments, reviewing the various combinations of medicines and natural ingredients which have been trialled across the world, detailing the different results seen, as well as the doses being used to help readers gain a fuller understanding of what is being practiced in different countries.
Natural Ingredients Used in Treating Covid-19.
Doubtless, over time we will learn more about what works best for treating Covid-19 but for now, with widespread adoption in numerous countries of a combined pharmaceutical and nutraceutical approach, we think it best to focus on prevention and investing your efforts on those products with the strongest evidence base.
Is Being Overweight a Risk with Covid-19?
While obesity is established as being both immunosuppressive and inflammatory, there has been less attention paid to those who are merely above their optimal level of bodyfat. However, given diseases such as diabetes (another risk factor for Covid-19) do not just occur overnight, but instead show a steady progression in time, we explore the potential for insulin resistance, which increases in severity with greater levels of bodyfat, being a potential underlying health condition that makes you more liable to suffer serious complications from Covid-19.
A number of glucose disposal agents have shown tremendous evidence both for managing excess bodyweight and displaying antimicrobial benefits including strong antiviral properties. This is unlikely to be a coincidence but instead suggestive of the fact that there exists a sliding scale with those who are lean at one end, while those who are obese are at the other end. In between those two extremes, will be those who struggle with impaired insulin sensitivity but who are not technically obese – such individuals should prioritise both optimising their insulin sensitivity and losing excess bodyfat.
For a fuller discussion of this principle read our article on the link between being overweight and the risks of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.
New Immunity Support Ingredients Reviewed
We now have added in sections on – ashwagandha, cinnamon extract, selenium, n-acetyl cysteine, garlic, spirulina and bee pollen. We will be updating the section on immune supporting nutrients as additional new research comes into focus.
Symptom Management for Covid-19
Currently, those infected with Covid-19 and experiencing only mild symptoms are being advised to rest at home and only to use those medicines which are designed to manage the most common symptoms, namely a fever and a dry cough. Should symptoms persist past a few days, it is advised to seek further medical advice.
Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) – Paracetamol is recommended for the management of pain and for helping control a fever.
Pholcodine – Pholcodine is a medicine which is indicated for the treatment of unproductive coughs or dry coughs, a common symptom of Covid-19.
Codeine Linctus – Codeine is similarly used for the treatment of unproductive coughs. Unlike pholcodine, codeine linctus also has some analgesic properties.
Surgical Grade Sanitiser
While personal hygiene and disinfecting surfaces remains paramount, we can now offer a surgical grade hand sanitiser which is used in hospitals to disinfect the hands of surgeons before they commence operating on patients. Indeed, as a full spectrum antimicrobial spray, it both lasts far longer than a regular hand sanitiser, as well as being more versatile, and effective.
We recommend carrying it with you and using it spray anything which your fingers come into contact with, and it is especially useful for spraying containers of food and to make sure they are virus free. Imagine how many hands a packet of potato chips will have gone through before you open it and consume it – these are the types of situations where a spray of the exterior surfaces ensures you don't transfer the virus from the packaging, onto your fingers and then into your mouth when you put a potato chip in your mouth.
A Review of Supplements Used for Supporting Immunity
There is a huge amount of research that has been conducted into the different supplements which show evidence of being useful in protecting the body from infection, supporting immune function, or even showing antimicrobial properties. For those interested in receiving a pdf book which goes into greater detail than this article permits, you can signup to claim a free copy by entering your email address below. However, this article summarises most of the key findings.
For those more interested in what to take, and how much to take you can use the table below to help guide you but we recommend you read the detailed notes against each nutrient so you can best select the particular supplements that will be most beneficial in your unique case.
Supplements for Supporting Immunity
|Berberine, Oxymatrine, Ecklonia Cava, Cinnamon Blend||*****||Buy Elixir Blend|
|Male Health||*****||Buy Male Health|
|Premium Multivitamin Blend (Incl. Vitamin C, D and E)||*****||Buy Premium Vitamin Blend|
|Vitamin C||****||Buy Vitamin C|
|Vitamin D||****||Buy Vitamin D|
|Female Health||***||Buy Female Health|
|Green Tea||*||Buy Green Tea|
|Bee Pollen||*||Buy Bee Pollen|
Note that in grading the nutrients above from 5 stars (most useful) to 1 stars (least useful), we have made a decision based on the numerous factors discussed below including the quality and scope of potential effects, the quality of evidence, and focused on those nutrients shown in research to have antiviral effects or evidence of effectiveness against respiratory tract infections in the research database reviewed.
Shuanghuanglian is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) which is comprised of three separate ingredients and is ingested as a liquid. On Jan 31, the Chinese state press, Xinhua, announced that the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica (SIMM) and Wuhan Institute of Virology had discovered this supplement had been used to inhibit COVID-19. 
If you ever saw Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion, you may remember the Jude Law character promoting a fake cure by the name of Forsythia which in the film led to panic buying of Forsythia and his eventual arrest for fraud. Well, sometimes real life is stranger than fiction because one of the three ingredients in Shuanhuanglian is Forsythia!
That coincidence apart, the actual study from Jan 31 was only conducted in vitro but SIMM had previously tested Shuanhuanglian’s effects against SARS in 2003, as well as against different strains of the influenza virus including both swine flu and avian flu. Interestingly enough, the evidence showed it “showed better effect than common antibiotics on helping relieve some symptoms…and decrease the course of acute upper respiratory tract infections”.
Xinhua on Feb 3 stated that eight patients including six in critical condition had been cured by “a combination of TCM and Western medicine in Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.” On Feb 18, China’s leading epidemiologist, Zhong Nanshan, who discovered SARS in 2003, highlighted a Shuanghuanglian had proven effective in the treatment of COVID-19 while stating that a number of traditional chinese medicines including Liushenwan and Lianhuaqingwen were being tested to see if they could be effective in managing COVID-19. A professor at the Guangzhou Institute of Respiratory Health indicated that in vitro experiments had identified five TCM’s found to inhibit the novel coronavirus infection.
Furthermore, a review of studies conducted using TCM ingredients including Forsythia demonstrated those who took TCM did not contract SARS and the infection rate for swine flu was significantly lower than the non-TCM group. 
All in all, while we have seen Contagion winning acclaim for predicting a lot of what has happened during the coronavirus pandemic, it turns out that Jude Law may have been onto something during that movie after all as it turns out Forsythia when used in conjunction with the other two ingredients in Shuanghuanglian has actually got a decent evidence base after all.
Berberine – Strong Antimicrobial Action
Berberine is a natural ingredient which has shown anti-influenza activity as well as its anti-inflammatory, and broad antimicrobial action against viruses, fungus, and bacteria. The researchers stated “berberine strongly suppressed viral replication” and relieved symptoms including pulmonary inflammation, a common symptom of respiratory infections.
A separate study on berberine’s effects on viral infections concluded that “Berberine derivatives inhibits various strains of influenza” , and it exhibits antiviral effects both in vitro and in vivo with the ability to inhibit virus infection in influenza and improving pathogenic changes by repressing inflammatory substance release.
Oxymatrine – Antiviral and Anti-Inflammatory Compound
Oxymatrine has evidence supporting its ability to inhibit influenza replication and reduce inflammation with it being used in clinical settings for years while one study from 2018 showed it exhibits “excellent anti influenza A virus activity” and was able to reduce activity in eight different strains of influenza and “suppress the expressions of inflammatory cytokines”.
Furthermore, oxymatrine showed significant symptomatic improvements with the ability to “significantly increases survival rate, decrease the lung index, pulmonary inflammation andf lung viral tittle, and improve pulmonary histopathological changes.”
Ecklonia Cava – Anti-Coronavirus and Antimicrobial Activity
Ecklonia Cava – A compound derived from seaweed, ecklonia cava has a number of remarkable properties including not just antiviral but antimicrobial, antioxidant and anticancer properties, as well as more recently being investigated as a treatment for the prevention and treatment of influenza infections with it displaying potent inhibitory effects against influenza as well as effects that make it useful for improving body composition, antiviral, protecting liver function and showing anti-inflammatory effects.
Ecklonia Cava and Coronaviruses
Even more interestingly, this study noted the following:
“Given the importance of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 3C-like proteinase (SARS-CoV 3CLpro) in viral replication, a biological assessment was completed on the phlorotannins isolated from E. cava. In this study, the E. cava phlorotannins were shown to inhibit SARS-CoV3CLpro competitively in cell-free systems."
While this does not refer to the same coronavirus that is in the news now, it does provide yet another sign of the potential of ecklonia cava. You can find more information on ecklonia cava’s potential benefits with respect to coranaviruses in a 2013 study that concluded it had “strong antiviral activity… and may be developed into natural therapeutic drugs against coronavirus infection.”
Interestingly enough, the researchers concluded that of all the potential health benefits associated with ecklonia cava extract, the most potential could relate to its anti-carcinogenic effects. We’d recommend reading the full study to learn more.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used cinnamon extracts for the improvement or protection against the common cold while another study showed that it possessed potential antibacterial activity against a wide variety of bacteria including the Haemophilus Influenza. However, rather than its direct effects in combating pathogens, cinnamon's greatest benefits are likely to be indirect, through its role in combating weight gain.
Being overweight is linked to pathogenicity due to excess bodyfat being linked to immunosuppression and greater inflammation. In other words, those who are overweight are more likely to contract an infection and suffer a more severe illness.
When we look at the research on cinnamon extract we see multiple studies showing cinnamon directly reduces both diabetes and obesity, reduces blood glucose, obesity, and blood pressure while offering protection against metabolic syndrome, improving body composition inhibiting hyperlipidaemia and inflammation, and inducing increased fat loss.
Given the preponderance of evidence showing cinnamon can optimise body composition, help regulate glucose, and lower inflammation, it is perhaps no surprise that in common with berberine, oxymatrine and ecklonia cava, cinnamon looks yet another excellent micronutrient for supporting immunity. Indeed, the question worth exploring with all these ingredients is whether their antimicrobial properties are a direct result of inherent properties, or an indirect consequence of their effects on regulating blood sugar and improving body composition.
Whichever it is, their usage and the importance of maintaining optimal bodyfat levels cannot be stressed highly enough under the current circumstances.
For those interested in using berberine, oxymatrine, ecklonia cava tor cinnamon, there is one supplement which contains all four, Elixir by Hydrapharm.
Male Health & Testosterone - Crucial to Fighting Infection
Generally, as we age, levels of male hormones decline, this being one reason our ability to maintain optimal fitness and health is compromised as we age. A number of studies support the fact that testosterone or similar types of androgens such as androstenediol play a crucial role in combating influenza, augmenting immune system response, counteracting cortisol rises, and improving survival rates while helping to explain why elderly males suffer disproportionately from respiratory infections compared to younger men.
Indeed, evidence shows that by increasing levels of testosterone you can both reduce the severity of respiratory infections and reduce mortality. Furthermore, with increasing awareness of the role of inflammation as a key factor in driving disease severity and mortality, one study showed that lowered levels of testosterone, resulted in greater inflammation and mortality after influenza infection.
One last thing to consider is that research showing that both young males (<age 20) and eldery men (>age 80) have a higher rate of hospitalisation and mortality which appears to suggest it is the level of circulating androgens like testosterone that is correlated with infection severity, potentially more than age, at least with some pathogens.
When it comes to products designed to support testosterone levels for men, the greatest benefit tends to come with those products designed to suppress estrogen levels in men. In simple terms, by reducing estrogen, your body produces more testosterone. In addition, for men who are overweight, such products could be even more vital as being overweight leads to higher estrogen levels in men and so such products are needed even more.
Of the available products we stock, the ingredients in the product Alchemy have shown the greatest evidence in both research and in real world feedback. You can read more about the studies supporting its efficacy on the Alchemy product page
Salidroside - Antiviral Properties & Proven in Athletes
Salidroside is the most biologically active constituent in the herb rhodiola rosea. It is typically used for its anti-stress/cognitive benefits with one study stating it works due to its ability to regulate stress response, inhibit oxidative stress, enhance neural regeneration and exert anti-inflammatory benefits. Its ability to regulate stress and reduce inflammation is matched by its consistent antiviral activity with research showing it can combat dengue fever, coxsackievirus B3, and respiratory viral infections.
Most interestingly, is Salidroside’s potential antiviral properties for athletes. In a study from 2015, competitive athletes were given either a rhodiola supplement or placebo and the authors concluded that supplementing with “rhodiola may exert protective effects against virus replication following intense and prolonged exercise by inducing antiviral activity.” With this study using a lower purity of salidroside, there exists the potential for even more marked antiviral action for isolated salidroside.
Finally, numerous studies have shown Salidroside’s potential in ameliorating sepsis induced lung injury, and protection against pulmonary fibrosis. Attacking the lungs and causing pulmonary fibrosis is one of the most common symptoms seen in those for whom Covid-19 turns severe or fatal.
BPC-157 - Tremendous Evidence of Healing Properties
A pentadecapeptide based amino acid a study from 2018 reveals that BPC-157 was able to counteract severe lesions induced by excessive intakes of alcohol, indeed, BPC-157 completely cured all alcohol lesions.
BPC-157 has also been shown to have strong healing properties in both regenerating skin damage, and damage to the colon. completely counteract the negative effects of NSAID overdoses to multiple body organs including the liver , protect the liver, brain, reduce arthritic pain, alleviate disturbances of body temperature, and improve blood vessel function to name but a few of the areas where BPC-157 was shown to be highly effective.
We have covered only a fraction of the research conducted into BPC-157 but we have yet to come across a single study where it failed to help improve symptoms associated with a particular condition. One area that has not been studied to date is whether it has any benefits in preventing or treating infectious diseases such as influenza but what we can say is that some of the damage associated with such diseases occurs in organs such as the lungs, and BPC-157 has been shown to promote recovery in such organs where the injury occurred through a different mechanism than an infectious disease.
Echinacea - Herb for Immune Support
Echinacea– Arguably the best known supplement for immunity, Echinacea is a herb which has a long history of use for reducing the incidence of sickness and for reducing the time people are sick for, as well as lowering symptom severity. These benefits are acknowledged even by leading hospitals and public healthcare systems.
Vitamin C - Reduces Cold Duration, Severity and Incidence for Athletes
Vitamin C is arguably the supplement that springs to mind for the general public if asked for a nutrient that could help with immunity. Vitamin C plays a key role in the production of immune cells and is often used in hospital environments to help support patients’ immunity, including being used in China among coronavirus patients.
A meta-analysis of 29 studies investigated the use of over 200mg per day of vitamin C in preventing and treating the common cold. They noted that while the ingestion of vitamin C did not reduce the incidence of those falling ill, it did reduce the time to recovery in a way that was both modest and consistent. However, in situations where the study participants were exposed to extreme physical stress (high levels of exercise), vitamin C halved the risk of developing the common cold. In other words, for those engaging in regular, intensive bouts of exercise, vitamin C would be a particularly appropriate supplement to use on a daily basis as it not only reduces the duration of having a cold but also helps ensure you are less likely to catch them.
Furthermore, a separate study noted that vitamin C was able to enhance immune cell action and decrease lung inflammation caused by influenza viruses, as well as to reduce the duration and severity of the common cold.
Vitamin D - Helps Prevent Respiratory Infections
Widely deficient in countries in temperate or cold climates, a 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition noted a linear association between Vitamin D status and seasonal infections stating “the prevalence of respiratory infections had a strong seasonal pattern in the opposite direction to the pattern of vitamin D concentrations”
A meta-analysis for the British Medical Journal, published in 2017, reviewed 25 high quality studies involving double-blind, placebo controlled trials involving vitamin D and concluded “Vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infection among all participants”.
This confirms Vitamin D’s place as among the most highly regarded supplements for supporting health and wellbeing.
Does that mean you should worry about taking too much vitamin D?
Looking into the results more closely, it turns out that the bolus doses being given participants were at least 30,000IU, this dose coming on top of their regular daily or weekly vitamin D doses. Given that general guidelines for vitamin D supplementation are anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000IU daily, a dose of 30,000IU in addition to a standardised daily dose looks extremely high and at least based on this review, had a negative effect.
Zinc - Widely Deficient Mineral for Supporting Immune Status
Zinc is an essential mineral widely noted to be deficient among most populations, with athletes in particular at risk of “significantly lower” zinc status.
Given zinc’s role in testosterone production as well, with deficiencies linked to lower testosterone levels, many athletes will be taking a ZMA supplement which would correct the types of deficiencies seen above. If not, we would highly recommend they do for testosterone support and improved sleep quality, if nothing else.
What about the role of zinc in immunity though?
Studies show zinc is important for immune function and limiting inflammation with deficiencies associated with increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines Of note, the high proportion of deaths in young adults during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 was attributed to pro-inflammatory cytokine storms.
One last study on zinc specifically looked at how zinc deficiency contributed to an increased risk of infection with influenza, while those took supplemental zinc had a significantly lower risk of contracting pneumonia requiring antibiotics than those who did not supplement with zinc.
Ashwagandha, is an adaptogenic herb which a multitude of experimental studies outlining its bioactive properties. One of the main features of Ashwagandha is its calming effects on the body which is associated with an overall stress-protective activity. A recent study found individuals supplemented with Ashwagandha improved their concentration and attention on all tests, but most notably their mood was improved.
A further study concluded it was beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety especially in those who had issues with sleeping. With both stress and lack of sleep being linked to poor immunity, you would expect Ashwagandha to help support immunity, but does it?
As it happens, studies have shown just that with Ashwagandha being shown to have a "broad range of medicinal properties including anti-viral activity" including anti-influenza activity as well as evidence indicating ashwagandha can enhance immunity, due to the link between stress and immune status. In other words, ashwagandha supplementation, by fighting stress, has the benefit of supporting immunity also.
Stress is a big issue for the entire world right now, with lockdowns being associated with increased metal distress in and of themselves, let alone when you add in the extra stress of coping with a potentially deadly virus or the economic pain it is causing. This makes Ashwagandha particularly relevant for anyone who is experiencing mental stress as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Vitamin E - Fat-Soluble Vitamin Most are Deficient in. 
While there is research indicating potential benefits of vitamin E supplementation in reducing the risk of contracting cancer, and Parkinson’s disease, we investigated studies its effects on immune function.
A 2018 review looked at 14 studies in humans and stated “many studies provided evidence that the immunostimulatory effects of vitamin E confer improved resistance to infections” but that the “magnitude of the effects were rather small” or “only observed in subgroups of subjects”. However, the effects of vitamin E supplementation specifically with respect to respiratory infections caused by influenza virus, shows that vitamin E supplementation helped to enhance influenza viral clearance or helped defend against influenza infection.
Female Health and Estrogen
In general females tend to handle pathogenic respiratory viruses with the caveat that the poorer male response is likely linked to age-related declines in hormones such as testosterone.
A number of nutrients have been shown to have both estrogenic and/or beneficial effects relating to respiratory disease, of which some of the better-known ones with promise include angelica sinensis, vitamin D, chasteberry extract, and soy isoflavones.
Probiotics - Reduced Upper Respiratory Tract Infections in Athletes
Probiotics remain a confusing category due to the multiple strains of different probiotic ingredients, and variance in doses. Still, studies show probiotics outperformed a placebo in reducing the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, significantly outperformed a placebo among an elderly population in a nursing home, improved survival rate in mice infected with two particularly virulent forms of influenza and significantly reduced the incidence of upper respiratory infection and flu-like symptoms.
Of particular note, there is evidence supporting the ability of probiotic supplements to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in trained athletes when they consumed a multi-species probiotic supplement.
When it comes to supplementing with a probiotic, one range of probiotics that has an excellent evidence base is the Neobium range.
Elderberries are a fruit from the Sambucus tree, the most common of which is Sambucus nigra. It has a long history of use in traditional medicine that goes back centuries but it is only more recently that it has grown in popularity as a potential treatment option for those suffering from colds or flu.
A review of the clinical research on elderberries in 2009, stated that it may "provide antioxidant, antiviral and antiproliferative effects in vitro" but that more research was needed in vivo although one trial in humans showed it "may be useful for the treatment of viral influenza infections".
An earlier study from 2004 which was placebo controlled and involved sixty patients, showed that those taking an elderberry preparation had symptomatic relief occurring four days earlier than the placebo group. While admittedly a small trial, this is promising for those considering the use of an elderberry supplement during cold or flu season.
A more recent study from 2016 looked at whether elderberry supplementation could help with cold symptoms and duration, concluding that "placebo group participants had a significantly longer duration of cold episode days (117 vs 57) and the average symptom score over these days was also significantly higher." In short, the duration of the cold was shorter and the symptoms more mild in those who took elderberry.
Finally, a 2011 study uncovered both that elderberry supplementation could help protect against cold and flu but that it showed antibacterial as well as antiviral activity and in the authors' words "is active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses." One reason they looked into elderberry's anti-bacterial effects was that one of the risks with the influenza virus is bacterial super-infection causing severe pneumonia. In showing that elderberry had anti-bacterial effects, albeit in vitro, it demonstrates further the potential benefits in supplementing with this nutrient.
For those interested in using elderberry supplements, note that the doses in the studies mentioned range from 650mg to 1500mg in the various studies using elderberry capsules.
Selenium is a mineral which is required in only trace amounts by humans but which is nevertheless often deficient in humans. Best known as an antioxidant, selenium is has been gaining greater awareness for its potential to impact your response to infection.
In one study published in 2019, selenium deficiency was associated with heightened pathogenicity of several viruses, indicating adequate selenium intake is important for maintaining optimal immune status. However, while adequate intake of any essential micronutrient is important, a study from 2017 showing mixed effects, some beneficial and some detrimental, suggests selenium supplementation should be approached with caution.
Set against this, a 2015 study in Advanced in Nutrition, highlighted that with viral and bacterial infections associated with selenium deficiency, selenium supplementation improved several clinical and lifestyle variables in patients co-infected with HIV and tuberculosis. This included enhanced grip strength, increases in weight, decreases in mortality, slower disease progression, and suppressed viral loads. Certainly, with the studies using 100mcg to 400mcg a day, with the majority dosed at 200mcg it seems that if you already suffer from an infectious disease, it will generally pay off to supplement with some selenium due to its wide-ranging benefits.
Long touted by natural health practitioners as having antibacterial or antifungal properties, garlic has only been studied for its effects on human immunity relatively recently with research indicating it has the capacity to increase proliferation of natural killer cells and reduce cold and flu symptoms but not reducing the chance of catching either infection.
While the effects of garlic with flu and cold were limited to reducing symptom severity and enhancing natural killer cell production, there are other compelling reasons to consume garlic when we consider the evidence showing it can ameliorate inflammation, lower blood pressure, and stimulate immune function more broadly.
Yet another of the antioxidants on this list alongside selenium, vitamin C and vitamin E, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been a popular supplement for those concerned with counteracting free radical damage caused by oxidative processes in the body. As with the aforementioned antioxidants, it is commonly found in numerous antioxidant supplements so how well does it stack up for the specific purpose of upholding immunity and/or combating infectious disease symptoms?
Fortunately, NAC is one of the more studied ingredients in this list with various studies showing that high doses of NAC could help counteract pneumonia and septic shock triggered by the swine flu pandemic of 2009, that it helped combat acute lung injury caused by the same infectious disease, NAC led to a "dramatic decrease in influenza virus production" in a 2018 study while a 2010 study indicated NAC had the ability to inhibit virus replication and combat pro-inflammatory effects associated with the particularly deadly H5N1 form of influenza better known as Bird Flu.
Furthermore, NAC was also shown to help attenuate the effects of influenza and reduce the incidence of clinically apparent disease although it did not reduce the incidence of contracting influenza. Set against the prior research, a different study showed that NAC, while capable of inhibiting the H1N1 influenza virus (swine flu) in vitro, was not effective against it in vivo and thus cannot be considered to be universally effective against all types of influenza viruses. It is worth noting that the specific strain this study looked at is not a seasonal flu virus but instead one that circulated widely in 2009.
In conclusion, while there is a broad research basis documenting multiple health benefits that favour steady state supplementation of NAC, the evidence supporting its use agains influenza type viruses is not as strong as it is in providing protection from the effects of other illnesses.
Green Tea - Antioxidant for General Health
One study investigated whether green tea could show anti-influenza action in chickens infected with the H1N1 strain and results revealed that in a dose-dependent manner, green tea consumption was indeed associated with strong anti-influenza activity.
A different study investigated whether tea catechins found in green tea could be beneficial in cases of infection with both influenza and the common cold. The authors concluded that while the antiviral activity of catechins had been demonstrated, and epidemiological studies have suggested regular green tea consumption decreases influenza infection rates and cold symptoms, there is nevertheless the need for more clinical evidence to support their utility.
We do not know at this stage if green tea consumption in humans is specifically beneficial in preventing or ameliorating symptoms of infectious diseases but in both animals and in vitro studies, consumption of green tea can help inhibit viral replication.
Spirulina is a plant based superfood which is rich in protein and loaded with micronutrients including vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. For this alone, supplementing with spirulina is a great idea for ensuring you meet both your macro and micronutrient requirements.
As far as the research on its health benefits, we see that there is research showing spirulina consumption can prevent skeletal muscle damage and stimulate antibody production and anti-inflammatory responses when subjected to exercise-induced stress, inhibit influenza virus replication and reduced virus-induced mortality in mice when multi-gram doses were used and reduced clinical signs of disease caused by the H1N1 strain of influenza. Again though, this was in a study conducted in mice.
While there is some limited evidence indicating potential antioxidant and immunomodulating benefits in supplementing spirulina, they occur mainly in animal or in vitro studies, with more human evidence required. What little human research that has been documented, for example a review on whether spirulina can help with metabolic syndrome showed only limited evidence supporting its consumption.
All in all, spirulina looks like a great choice of food but at this stage the evidence supporting its use is more theoretical than clinically validated. For those who wish to read more about its potential applications, specifically with respect to COVID-19, a recently published paper gives various reasons for supplementing with spirulina, along with various other nutrients, some of which we have covered, but including others like glycine and glucosamine which we have not. Our view is that without clinical validation, such theoretical arguments often fail to demonstrate real-world benefits although the suggested doses of the different ingredients presented by the authors could have benefits in other ways.
Practices to Support Immunity and Prevent Infections
A quick word on non-nutrient based interventions that support immunity and help reduce your chances of contracting an infectious disease in the first place.
We would strongly advise anyone seeking to focus on prevention and immune system support to focus on these first. They have the strongest evidence base of all approaches to ensuring you stay healthy and any use of supplements should be done after you have incorporated these into your daily life.
|Personal Hygiene||Aim to wash your hands for 30 secs with warm water and soap. Wash your hands every hour or less. After washing your hands, we recommend disposable paper towels, to dry your hands.
Keep our surgical scrub sanitising spray by your side when you are out. Designed for operating theatre staff, it is far superior than a regular supermarket hand sanitiser
|A Healthy, Nutritious Diet||Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit or veg daily + above maintenance calories, 6-10g of omega 3’s and at least 1g/kg of protein per bodyweight.|
|Control Inflammation||Inflammation is a risk factor in numerous diseases, including the flu , so aim to consume a diet that limits inflammation.
Protein - In general, eat more lean sources of protein like low fat cuts of meat, fish of all kinds, and whey protein. Most protein rich food has a minimal impact on inflammation with the exception of higher fat cuts of red meat or processed meats like burgers, bacon and sausages.
Carbohydrates - Aim to consume mainly non-processed sources such as rice, pasta, oats, but avoiding wheat if you struggle with gluten. Eating lots of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, and cauliflower is great but avoid again heavily processed foods like French fries, sodas, and refined bread.
Fats – Most fat intake will tend to be incidental to the consumption of other foods which if carefully selected as above, should mean the only real fats you should look to include are foods rich in beneficial fats such as omega-3 fatty acids found in sardines and mackerel and other oily fish.
Alternatively, if those aren’t to your fancy, you can supplement your diet with fish oil as found in Predator Super Omega - a high quality EPA/DHA rich fish oil supplement.
|Avoid Smoking/Vaping||Smoking massively increases the incidence and severity of respiratory infections with studies estimating it makes you up to 14 times as likely to die or get severe illness than non-smokers  with both smoking and e-cigarettes leading to worse outcomes with respiratory infections.|
|Minimise exposure to sick people||Stay away from those who are sick and try to avoid going within 6 feet of those who appear well as they could be asymptomatic and still highly infectious. Respiratory droplets are a key transmission mechanism but so would any skin to skin contact.|
|Hydration||Aim to drink around 3 litres of water daily for general health.|
|Sleep||Aim for 8 hrs of sleep a night if possible. Avoid blue light emitting sources and your phone in the hour before bed. Try a research backed supplement like Revival which incorporates ingredients has been shown to help attenuate stress, anxiety and aid in deeper, more restorative sleep. Explore our full range of sleep supplements.|
|Stress||Meditation, drinking chamomile tea, watching Netflix, avoid too much bad news– do what you must to help you relax especially at night. The same supplements designed for sleep can in most cases be repurposed for stress support – good options include Revival, Ashwagandha and CBD products.
Bonus: Ashwagandha also helps with hormonal regulation which we touch on below plays a key role in severity of outcomes for some respiratory viral infections.
|Disinfect Surfaces||A study in Singapore on Coronavirus infected patients found that surfaces needed to be regularly cleaned with an antimicrobial disinfectant. If this was done, the rooms were clear of coronavirus despite hosting infected patients.
Another room containing a patient was examined before cleaning. In this situation the virus had contaminated 13 out of 15 room sites including air outlet fans, and the toilet bowl, sink and door handles.
The lesson is to clean surfaces regularly, including phones, door handles, laptops, desks, fridge doors – ANYTHING you touch should be cleaned regularly.
The good news in this study, is that despite the surfaces being contaminated, the virus was not present in the air, those tests being negative despite widespread contamination elsewhere.
|Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth||Scratch your head if you must, touch your forehead by all means but never touch an area with your fingers which acts as a pathogen entry point. If you absolutely must because of an itch, wrap your fingers in tissue paper or else do so immediately after washing your hands. If you can use your feet, elbows or shoulders to open doors.|
|Exercise||Aim to exercise 3-4 times a week. Avoid daily high intensity exercise as this can make you more likely to fall ill and be wary of ramping up exercise intensity or volume too quickly. For those who are training heavily in particular, we highly recommend supplementing those supplements shown to be effective in hard training athletes for protecting against infections.|
|Stay Fit and Lean||While this might seem linked to the importance of exercise, excessive bodyfat is a risk factor in and of itself, not only the coronavirus but many diseases in general. To be sure, the link is strongest in those classified as obese, but there exists a sliding scale between the health of someone having an optimum level of body fat and those who are extremely overweight.
As such, we should all strive to maintain our body composition at a level that is optimal, avoiding also the temptation to diet down to extremely low levels of bodyfat seen among competition bodybuilders or some endurance cyclists as that can make you more susceptible to illness.
Of course, there is no guarantee that any action an individual takes, can prevent them falling sick but by prioritising their lifestyle habits and then supplementing with carefully selected nutrients based on scientific evidence, we can ensure that we do what we can to optimise our wellbeing as far as we can.